Episode 3

A trailer park, outskirts of Gargle City

Dirt Man emerged from his trailer and stared blearily around. He had just woken up and had a feeling that there was something he should be doing, but he couldn’t for the life of him think what it was. He stared happily at the dirt that was piled up around the base of the trailer, broken only intermittently by dying clumps of grass. He had always liked dirt. It just seemed so earthy. When he had decided to become a super hero, “Dirt Man” had seemed like such an appropriate name, one to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies. It was just so symbolic; dirt was everywhere, most things had their foundations on it, and it could easily smother you in things like avalanches.

Of course, most people thought the name originated from the fact that Dirt Man was all but covered in the dirt that he loved so much, but he couldn’t do much about that. He viewed the dirt as more of a job benefit, and if other people thought otherwise, well that was their problem. People also tended to think that he must be some sort of liberally-minded environment-protecting type hero, but he really wasn’t. He liked the environment, and figured it was a pretty good idea to keep it around, but he wasn’t particularly interested in fighting its battles for it.

His gaze fell on a particularly nice clod lying off to one side of the trailer, and the word “commissioner” floated across his mind in a nebulous sort of way. After a few more minutes, it finally connected somewhere, and he sighed and headed in the direction that he thought the city lay in.

Two hours later Dirt Man trudged into a bus stop in one of the residential districts of Gargle City. Sometime during the first forty-five minutes of trudging next to the highway he had realized that he needed a vehicle. Perhaps the Commissioner would be willing to help out with that. He was the city’s super hero now, after all.

“A vehicle.” The Commissioner did not look pleased. In fact, he looked almost as not pleased as Dirt Man himself, who had finally found the office after wandering around downtown Gargle City for fifty minutes, peering up at skyscrapers and glancing in shops to no avail. He was tired, sore, and wondering anew why on earth no one ever came to Gargle City when it was obviously such a large metropolitan area.

“A vehicle,” said the Commissioner again. He looked like he had swallowed a lemon whole and was trying to get it to come back up.

Dirt Man looked at him and glared faintly. The Commissioner gripped his desk tightly.

“I’ll see what I can do,” the Commissioner said.

“Good,” said Dirt Man. “Now what’s going on in this town?”

“Nothing you need to concern yourself about,” said the Commissioner. “The local police force should be able to deal with things just fine for the next month or so until we can…well, just don’t you worry about it.”

“That’s it?!” said Dirt Man. “You force me to walk several miles, pay for a lousy bus, and then search out your office just to tell me that there aren’t any situations that need a super hero to deal with? Why on earth did you fools ask for a super hero if you aren’t willing to use him?”

The Commissioner eyed Dirt Man up and down. “I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “You aren’t exactly what we expected. In fact, you don’t look as if you’ll do that much good.” He pulled out a file from a door in his desk and spread it carefully out on the desktop. “It says here that you have no super powers.”

“Well, that’s true,” said Dirt Man.

“You never actually attended basic training for super hero(ine)s, but took a correspondence course instead.”

“It was a very good correspondence course.”

“When you took the physical exam, you only passed it because you were recovering from tuberculosis at the time and they lowered their standards accordingly.”

“So?”

“You have no prior experience being a super hero, but have been charged with several misdemeanors.”

“Never convicted, though.”

“The only interesting gadget you have is the Clod Flinger 2,000.5.”

“Ah, well, actually…I had to pawn that to get here,” said Dirt Man, shifting in place.

The Commissioner raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have a sidekick, nor any other kind of contacts in the super hero or villain world.”

“Oh, that,” said Dirt Man with relief. “I’m planning to find a sidekick in town. It’s always better to get someone who knows the lay of the land.”

The Commissioner brightened suddenly. Even in Gargle City there couldn’t be anyone stupid enough to join forces with so obviously an incompetent individual. “In that case,” he said, “you may return here for instructions as soon as you have obtained a suitable sidekick to help you. Otherwise you will be of no use at all, particularly since you don’t know Gargle City at all well. Perhaps I will see you again in a few days.”

The Commissioner put away Dirt Man’s file and began to type at his computer. Several minutes passed before he looked up and scowled at Dirt Man, who was still standing in front of the desk.

Dirt Man sighed slightly. He had been slightly nervous that life was about to improve, but this meeting had effectively notified him that the world had not changed in the least, and he was still going to be treated like dirt. It was something of a relief to know that as changeable as the world sometimes seemed, some things were as sure as the sun rising.

“I’ll be back soon, then,” he said somewhat more cheerfully, and left the office.

The Commissioner was not a devout man, but in times of extreme feeling he sometimes offered up a small prayer to the Great Beyond just on the off chance. “Dear Lord, let him be wrong,” he muttered to the ceiling.

* * *

In a bar near the industrial area of town, a rumor was spreading slowly, oozing off the counter and clinging to the coats and throats of the patrons. No one knew who had started it, but it wouldn’t go away.

There’s a new super hero in town.

The rumor was carried to nearby taverns, misting through smoky interiors and filtering into corners. Like the mud from construction sites, it crusted on worker’s boots and flaked off in halls, by billiard tables, and around the bases of bar stools.

Some super hero’s arrived. Gonna clean shit up.

People left the seedier areas of town, and headed home. The rumor rode along, spreading its infectious strains, multiplying and changing with each breath.

Big name in town. Heard he arrived from the East coast after he’d put himself out of work.

Super hero comin’.

Friend told me the super hero’s back.

Super hero. What? A super hero.

A bulky man in a tattered jacket lined with red and white checkered flannel walked away from the bars, hands in pockets and eyes on the dark. He grinned at nothing, and thought about the possibilities that a few hundred extra dollars would offer. He shambled along slowly, and behind him the nightlife in Gargle city went on its own way, rumor percolating through its veins.

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